For Consignor, the market research came second. Executives from the Norway-based logistics and delivery software firm were at a bar in Shenzhen, China, when they asked some American logistics professionals where they should put their U.S. base. The response was clear and immediate.
“They said, ‘Atlanta — that’s a no-brainer,’” said CEO Peter Tang Thomsen, a Dane who has been running the company from Oslo since its founding 20-plus years ago.
The city is home to United Parcel Service Inc., one of the largest global express carriers, but also logistics software firms like Chainalytics and Manhattan Associates. After a little more digging, it quickly became evident that Atlanta had specific pool of expertise related to parcel and shipping software.
Recruiting talent was the company’s top priority, and Atlanta “won big” in that category.
“It is really coming together. It is a great place to be,” Mr. Thomsen said.
Zaid Duwayri, who was attracted by the company’s close-knit corporate culture to run the office here, said Consignor just finished its strategic planning and is ready to tackle the Atlanta market.
“What surprised me was how many people in our specific segment in the industry reside here in Atlanta,” Mr. Duwayri, who sees many software veterans like him opting to join new companies. “It’s a small community of folks who have decided to stay in Atlanta and are very collaborative.”
Consignor is a software platform that has built a library of about 700 delivery carriers, from global giants like UPS down to single-city couriers. Companies pay the firm a recurring fee to use its cloud-based tools for compliance, label printing and tracking, as well as finding carriers and routes based on optimal time and cost.
“What we say is that we are connecting the warehouse to the customers,” Mr. Thomsen said.
The company has about 170 employees worldwide, from designers in Scandinavia to back-end developers in Romania.
While many carriers insist they can do end-to-end delivery everywhere, that’s getting tougher as e-commerce disaggregates shipments and speeds up delivery expectations. Many of them sub-contract to smaller carriers for last-mile delivery, which is why those Amazon Prime shipments sometimes show up at your doorstep in unmarked vehicles.
Other big players are figuring out how to utilize their brick-and-mortar stores for e-commerce. Walmart employees have reportedly been asked to deliver items on their homeward commutes, and it just launched the InHome Delivery service, where employees will replenish items in your home or garage refrigerator. Home Depot, meanwhile, is partnering with Atlanta startup Roadie to provide same-day delivery.
Exports can be a particular challenge — especially when groups like Tottenham Hotspur, an English Premier League soccer team, are selling t-shirts and hats from an online store to individual buyers in places from Malaysia to Denmark, rather than shipping by the container load, Mr. Thomsen said.
“Most of the big carriers will say, ‘I can do the whole world,’ but you will never cost-efficient enough. You will lose your margins, so you will need some of the big guys to do the heavy lifting where they are good, but you will need to combine it with the local heroes,” he added.
On-boarding with Consignor means the shipper has immediate access to whole new world of carriers.
“If he’s plugged into us, he is plugged into the whole world,” Mr. Thomsen said. “We are simply normalizing shipping. You can go out there and contract with whoever you want to contract with.”
Mr. Duwayri, managing director of Consignor U.S., said the company invests heavily in its network and in integrating carriers to the platform via its API, driving business for carriers and efficiencies for shippers.
“It’s an investment,” he said, “but we got so good at it doing it over 20 years that it became a routine thing.”
John Woodward, senior director of foreign investment at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said Consignor’s coincidental arrival in one of Atlanta’s top sectors — logistics — is a good sign for the city’s global reputation.
He recently visited Oslo to pitch Atlanta more directly to a growing tech ecosystem, sensing a desire on the part of Norwegian firms to start looking outwardly. Oil has made Norway one of the world’s richest countries, but it’s also dedicated to diversifying away from it.
“The reason I was there is because I’m picking up from this and from other indications that there is this transition, this evolution within the Norwegian economy that we would like to tap into,” Mr. Woodward said in a meeting with Consignor executives. He visited a few tech incubators during the trip.
Consignor is currently based at a WeWork office in Midtown but has plans to grow its local footprint as business takes off.
Learn more about the company here.